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AUTHOR: 



FRANKLIN, CHRISTINE 



TITLE: 



EPISTEMOLOGY FOR 
THE LOGICIAN 

PLACE: 

HEIDELBERG 

DA TE : 

WINTER 



COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES 
PRESERVATION DEPARTMENT 



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Franklin, Christine (Ladd) 1847-1930. 

Episteniolory ^or the logician. Heidelberg. 
Winter, 1P08. 

cover title, p. 664-670^ 24^n ZSl^^' 

Sonderabdruck aus den Verhandlunren des III, 
Internationalcn konc^resses fiir philosophie, Hei 
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EPISTEMOLOGT FOR THE LOGICIAN 
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664 



EPISTEMOLOGT FOR THE LOGICIAN. 

By Christine Ladd Franklin, 

Johns Hopkins University, BaUimore. 



I. 

Philosophy among the Sciences. 
It is an old reproach to philosophy that it fails to make 
progress, that it is always being done over again, that nothing 
remains as established, accepted, doctrine for future genera- 
tions to build upon, but that fresh attempts are always being 
made to construct it difierently from the beginning. The hall- 
mark of science, on the other hand, is that its acquisitions are 
cumulative from generation to generation, — what is establi- 
shed remains, — its procedure is by adding solid stone to stone, 
— its results command assent, and in consequence command 
respect. This sad plight of philosophers (a reproach which 
they have various, but insufficient, means of explaining away) 
has been, as it happens, particularly accentuated in August of 
this very year. Hermann Cohn has drawn attention to the 
fact that the International Congress of Historical Sciences, 
which has now met in Berlin, found no room for philosophy 
upon its program, although it takes in literature, art, and the 
natural sciences, as well as the plain history of human events. 
This, indeed, is going far, — if philosophy could not (as indeed 
it has no right to) appear as science, one might at least expect 
that it would have some claim to appear as literature or as 
art. But that the framers of the Berlin Congress should regard 
it as non-existent among branches of learning is a fact of such 
a startling nature, it brings so definitely to a focus what every- 
body knows to be the attitude of the scientifically disposed 
towards philosophy, that it may well furnish ground for re- 
flection, and perhaps for the starting up of a concerted effort 
towards a better, a less to-be-blushed-for, state of things. 



BPISTEMOLOGY FOR THE LOCICUN. 



665 



The distinguishing mark of philosophy, hitherto, has been 
that "everything goes." In other branches of learning absurd 
hypothesis and creed are quickly weeded out by ruthless cri- 
ticism But in the domain of metaphysics, there seems to be 
an ^unwritten law to the effect that, if once a system, then 
always a system, - that no matter how feeble a doctrine 
may be, no amount of criticism can lay its head low forever 
that it must always continue to exist, and to be battled against 
by fresh philosophers unceasingly. In science, wrong doc- 
trines, once disproved, are disproved forever; there are no 
"systems-, save temporarily and upon the outskirts - soon to 
be put to the test of sharp and vigorous discussion. Scieruie 
consists of knowledge, - not, it is true, a sort of knowledge 
that is destined never to be overthrown, but at least a sort 
which represents, at a given time, the best result of the com- 
bined effort of all scientists, - hypothetical always, according 
to the present view of the logician, but nevertheless of a high 
degree of probability, and only to be displaced by wider and 
more profound experience. . , ,, • j 

Science itself, it is true, has not always occupied this proud 
position, in which progress is continuous, and theories are not 
born but to be shattered. From its remote beginnings in the 
time of Hammurabi up to the comparatively very recent days 
of Bacon and Galileo, it had little more to boast of in the way 
of sure conquest, than philosophy itself. It is the discovery of 
strict principles of method - it is, in other words, tne aid o 
the logician as such (though he might happen to be a. scientist 
also) - that brought it suddenly into a position such that its 
protrrcss has been, for the last two centuries, by leaps and 
bounds. Has not philosophy something to learn from this? It 
may well be that it is a total lack of scientific method which 
is responsible for the condition in which philosophy finds 
herself to-day. It may well be that a thorough study ot doctrines 
regarding truth which prevail (more or less consciously) among 
men of the scientific turn of mind would do more than they can 
now believe possible to put the philosophers on a safer track. 
Without going farther into the question of method, it may be 
insisted upon (as I have already indicated) that there is one 
criterion which science considers indispensable, and which 
philosophy, much to its loss, has hitherto been content to go 



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C. LADD-FRANKLIN. 



without, — viz. the ability to secure common assent among 
those (they may be few in number) who are in a condition to 
form well-grounded judgments in a given domain — to obtain 
(to use a happy phrase which deserves to become classic) "the 
consensus of the competent." This it is in which philosophy 
is conspicuously lacking, — and to a much greater degree in- 
deed (owing to unending ambignity of phrase) than always 
appears on the surface. It may be that a common standing- 
ground, however small, is unattainable by philosophers, but 
the making out of that fact would itself be a gain for know- 
ledge. But if there is a common groundwork between philoso- 
phical systems, with claim to truth, it were well that this were 
ascertained as soon as possible. 

Or, shall we perhaps be forced to admit, after all, that phi- 
losophy is not a branch of knowledge, that all philosophy is, like 
the so-called philosophy of Nietzsche, merely a department of 
literature, or of art, that it makes no claim to acceptance but 
only to enjoyment, — that metaphysics, in a word, is poetry? 
Lotze, indeed, distinctly confesses not only that it was his artistic 
and ethical needs that made him take to philosophy, but also 
that they form the basis of his system, — and there are phi- 
losophers to-day who pursue philosophy not from love of truth, 
but with a distinct parti pris, — from the necessity they feel 
themselves under of producing a speculative system from which 
they can deduce the possibility, e. g., of a plainly revealed re- 
ligion. But as we fear the Greeks the more, the more import- 
ant the gift they bring, so a happy issue to a philosophy (even 
so vast an issue as this) gives, if anything, an antecedent 
probability against it, — or, at least, it is a thing which causes 
us to be the more on our guard, intellectually; all such con- 
siderations take philosophy outside the region of plain truth. 

This is a crisis which calls for action, — but, also, the 
present moment permits it. As other congresses appoint their 
commissions for the prolonged study of questions of peculiar 
difficulty, I venture to suggest that this congress should appoint 
a commission, whose task should be simply to propose some 
few fundamental principles so well founded that they may be 
handed over to the outsider as at least a program — a plat- 
form — which may have some chance to command the con- 
sensus of the competent among the philosophers, and to meet 



EPISTEMOLOGY FOR THE LOGICIAN. 



667 



the severe tests for validity which are matter of course among 
the logicians and the scientists. 'The competent" we have here 
before us : if an effort is ever to be made towards the founding 
of a scientific philosophical doctrine, no better time could be 
found for making a beginning than the present. 

The members of this commission should be selected not so 
much for their proved prolificness as philosophers (for their 
task would be, at least in part, one of selection) as for their 
powers of logical acumen, for their keen scent for the detec- 
tion of fallacy. All should be excluded, for instance, who had 
not, in the blood, an ingrained incapacity for committing a 
wrong conversion (an error not so uncommon as one might 
suppose), •— all who believe that the syllogism can be proved 
by the laws of thought, or that all reasoning is syllogistic, — 
all who do not know that consistency, though an indis- 
pensable, is not a sufficient test for truth. It should, on the 
other hand, be plentifully furnished with members of that keen 
band of mathematical logicians who have lately been doing 
such heroic work in digging down into the foundations of logic 
and of mathematics. With a commission thus carefully con- 
structed, I believe that it would yet be possible to have a 
"philosophy among the sciences." 

II. 

The Doctrine of Histurgy. 

Fautc de mieux, I venture to offer a skeleton sketch of what 
I think such a common doctrine might consist of, — and in 
order to hold it together, and, in particular, to separate it out 
from pragmatism (its nearest foe), I give it a name (the reason 
for which will appear in a moment) — the name Histurgy. 

Such a skeleton philosophy as I have in mind (all that the 
logician and the scientest would have digestion for) should 
consist, I take it, of the following doctrines: 

1. A theory of reality, — the theory (already widespread 
among all philosophers later than Kant) that the existence of 
an external world is hypothetical only — an hypothesis of im- 
mense convenience and of much probability indeed, but be- 
longing only with beliefs of a much less degree of reality than 
that which attaches to immediate experience. 



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668 



G. LADD-FBANKLIN. 



2. A reformed psychology. Since philosophy is necessarily 
based upon what the not further analyzable constituants of 
consciousness are, it is of the last importance that these con- 
stituents should be correctly made out. To this end the me- 
thods of genetic logic, among others, will contribute much. 

We need a theory of truth; and, .^iicc tn.ih is expressed 
in the form of judgments, we need (as a necessary preliminary): 

3. A theory of the judgment. The latter (a topic on which I 
believe that contemporary opinion has gone much astray) will 
take this form: 

Among consciousness-constituents which are held together 
in the one-time-one-place relation, some occur together so 
universally that their concomitance attracts no attention i — 
(such an ensemble goes by the name of concept); others are 
in some way striking, unexpected, demanding emphasis, — an 
asserted, emphasized relation between concepts of this sort 
is a judgment. 

4. When are propositions true and ivhen are they not? Those 
who have discussed this question have failed to notice the im- 
mense difference, in this connection, between the particular 
and the universal statement of truth. The particular is an 
immediate experience, not further analyzable, not capable of 
explanation, — one of the original data of consciousness. When 
I say "some a is &", I say that, for instance (if a and h stand 
for acid and blue), the experience acid is (at least once) con- 
current with the experience blue. This experience of con- 
currence is as much immediate, unanalyzable (and also as 
independent of the existence of an external world and conse- 
quently non-representative of the external or the objective) as 
is the experience acid or the experience blue. The one-time- 
one-place relation is, it is true, a temporal-spatial relation (or 
temporal only, if the terms are "subjective"), but that gives 
it no claim to be treated in mystical, metaphysical, fashion. 
Particular truths do not need to be, nor can they be, proved, 
or established — they are simply experienced. 

With the universal proposition, we enter upon different 
ground. The universal proposition is a thing of double import; 
— on the one hand it is a simple summing up of past ex- 



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EPISTEMOLOGY FOR THE LOGICIAN. 



669 



» That it "goes without saying". 



perience, a simple enumeration of particulars ; — and some of 
our most fundamental truths have no other meaning than this: 
"whatever has shape has color, whatever has color has shape" 

— this is based upon a simple enumeration of instances, in 
bad repute as this method of getting at truth is among the 
older logicians. But truths like this we should never have 
taken the trouble to preserve — they are uninteresting and 
non-valuable. What gives significance and value to truths is 
that they permit of interesting prediction. Concurrences occur 
again, and there are such that, given the first term of the 
relation, the second one will be insured. To test the validity 
of such a proposition, we take at hazard any number of instan- 
ces of the occurence of a and we note whether b occurs also, 

— but it is essential that the instances should be chosen at 
hazard. (This is Peirce's theory of probable induction — a 
far more valuable contribution, I believe, to the theory of 
knowledge than his doctrine of pragmatism). Any principle of 
selection invalidates the process, for the ground upon which 
the selection is made may itself be an essential part of the 
antecedent, and so invalidate the generality of the proposition. 
So instances already experienced have not the force of those 
yet to be produced or discovered, for they may have some 
unnoticed common element which interferes with their sup- 
posed generality. Hence the value of experiment in the testing 

of truth. 

Isolated truths are tested by instances of their occurrence. 
But most truths are not isolated. Knowledge is a net-wor^ 
truths "hang together." The two terms of an asserted relation 
may enter severally into many other relations, and some such 
relation-pairs may chance to constitute the premises of valid 
syllogisms — that is, they may enable us to eliminate the 
common term and to state directly the relation which has al- 
ready been affirmed ^ (which is all that syllogism is). The 
conclusion thus obtained may itself be subjected to the test 
of instances, and in this way confirmatory probable evidence 
obtained for both the premises (or absolute condemnatory 
evidence of one if the contradictory occurs). Pragmatism is 
wrong in saying that consequences are the test for truth, and 
this for two reasons. In the first place, what shall convince us 
that the consequence itself is "true"? For that we can only 



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670 



C. LADD-FRANKLIN. 



apply the test of instances, unless the process of testing conse- 
quences is to go on ad infinitum, and in the vast majority of 
cases it is as easy to get instances of the proposition itself as 
it is to get instances of its consequences. Pragmatism, in pro- 
posing its test for truth, has in view only a very limited class 
of truths (such, for instance, as that God exists), and not that 
great body of truth which constitutes knowledge. Take that 
most certain of all truths, "terrestrial gravitation occurs", — it 
is not by its consequences that, we judge it (true though they 
all may be), but by its immediate and innumerable instances. 
In the second place, the truth of its consequences, while (as 
I have just said) unnecessary (or dispensable) for a large 
number of propositions, is insufficient for all. There are cer- 
tain truths indeed (or what we think to be such) in regard 
which instances are inaccessible to us, — for these we have 
only consequences to fall back upon. But we have a special 
name for truths of this sort — we call them hypotheses, 
and, if they become more probable, theories; — to erect 
this very limited class of our beliefs into the type of truth in 
general is to go very far astray from the methods of science, 
that is to say, from those methods which are destined to 
command assent. 

I conclude then that pragmatism is not only immoral but 
also untrue. What I would substitute for it is that knowledge 
is an net-work, that truths hang together, and that it is the 
confirmation (by instances) of the countless cross-connections 
(conclusions of syllogisms) which exist between our "items of 
knowledge" that give us the immense confidence we feel in its 
validity as a whole, — a confidence far greater than induc- 
tion in isolated cases (our only other method) could ever give 
us. The figure is that of the banyan tree: by means of an 
enormous interlacement of branches, and by sending down 
frequently supports which dig into the solid ground of fact, 
the whole vast structure is kept stable. I call this the doctrine 
of Histurgy, by which I mean a work of weaving — a woven 
tissue. 

(This doctrine will be developed farther in another place.) 



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